• 08.30.13

Yes, FOMO Is Now A Word In The Dictionary

Along with phablet, twerking (thanks, Miley), and selfie.

Yes, FOMO Is Now A Word In The Dictionary

Here’s a true Catch-22: Your phone is the device that keeps you connected to friends and on-the-fly plans. It’s also the portal to Instagram, which lets you delightfully share the beautiful or funny moments from those plans. But in another context, it’s a window into everyone else’s strobe-lit nights on the dance floor, 24-course molecular gastronomy meals, and helicopter rides over private Caribbean Islands. The resulting sensation, for the uninitiated*, is FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), and as many as 56% of social media users are victims.


This social media-manufactured emotion is now a registered word (is an American Psychiatric Association definition up next?), as decided by the Oxford Dictionary. Oxford updates their register quarterly, and this round includes a jarring amount of Internet-spawned lingo. From a post on the OED blog:

Technology remains a catalyst for emerging words and is reflected in new entries including MOOC (‘massive open online course’: a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people); bitcoin (a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank), and the compound Internet of things (a development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity). Other technology-related words added in this update include click and collect, BYOD (‘bring your own device’), and hackerspace.

Angus Stevenson of Oxford Dictionaries Online explains further:

On average, we add approximately 1,000 new entries to Oxford Dictionaries Online every year, and this quarter’s update highlights some fascinating developments in the English language. Portmanteau words, or blends of words, such as phablet and jorts, remain popular, as do abbreviations, seen in new entries such as srsly and apols.”

Do these entries signal another backslide for the English language? Or is this simply an indicator of the fast pace at which tech culture is becoming mainstream culture? It’s absurd enough that lazy AIM-speak (“BRB guys, I need to make a quick call.”) happens at all. These Internet acronyms, when used sardonically, are like memes–they’re ephemeral, and will quickly go away. But a spot in the dictionary suggests permanence. These elements of the user experience are here to stay.

*If you’ve never heard of or experienced FOMO, we apologize if this article is causing FOMO over FOMO.

Read more here.

About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.